Living up to expectations

All my life, my parents have had so many expectations of me that I could never live up to.

From the time I was little, they expected me to be a straight-A student. Judging by my current GPA, I can tell you that expectation was never met. Then they expected me to become a big-shot lawyer. Not only do I not have the GPA for that, but I don’t have the heart, passion, or drive for it either. When my parents realized that those would never be met, they at least expected me to get into a well-respected college in Michigan. That, I could deal with. Until the pressure exploded.

Let’s just put it this way- I am not a math person. So when I got a C on an advanced math track during high school, I was satisfied. However, my parents were anything but.

“How do you expect to get into Michigan State if they see a C on your transcript?!” my mom would say. I tried to explain to my mom that it’s no big deal. Lots of kids who don’t do as well on the advanced track can just repeat it the next year to try for a better grade, and they’ll just be considered on the “college prep” course instead of advanced.

My mom understood that, but she still didn’t understand why I dropped out of junior honors English as a sophomore.

“You didn’t even do bad in that class! You got a B! And for a sophomore in an honors course intended for juniors, that’s pretty darn good.”

Ok mom, it was good for a sophomore, but being 15 in a class intended for advanced 16 and 17 year olds was too much for me, and I felt like I was in over my head.

“But Michigan State won’t like it if they see you dropped that course, you know they’d love to see someone as smart as you on the advanced honors course!”

Mom, chill out. They’re changing the English courses for next year anyways, so I’ll just take the AP class intended for juniors. I’ll be with kids my own age, and I won’t be repeating the same material since the classes changed.

I don’t understand why my mom is so concerned about being on “advanced” or “honors” tracks. Sure, colleges would love someone on those tracks. But I’m sure they only love those who excel on them. Why would a college want someone who was on an advanced that was way over their head and didn’t do as well as they could have in a different course over someone who actually did well in their appropriate course?

I think my mom just wants to have me on those tracks purely for bragging rights. She just wants to be able to tell people, “Oh yes, Erin is in advanced, AP, and honors classes,” so that she can show off how “smart” I am.

And it’s not just my mom, it’s parents everywhere. We’ve all seen those bumper stickers on cars that say “My child is an honors student at fill-in-the-blank high school!”

– Written by Erin Houghton during the 2009 MIPA workshop

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